A recent study from TNTP finds a pervasive pattern of low expectations schools that harms the most vulnerable students. The authors observed thousands of lessons in hundreds of schools, and found that majority white and high-income classrooms were more likely to have qualities that have a positive impact on student learning – strong instruction that encourages students to do most of the thinking, rather than lecturing; high expectations; grade-appropriate assignments; and deep student engagement. Having these factors in a classroom is especially impactful for students who start the year behind.
The study found that overall, students were only given grade level-appropriate work 26% of the time, meaning that even students that met expectations in school could be woefully unprepared for post-secondary education. 40% of classrooms with majority students of color never received a single grade-level assignment (compared with 10% of majority white classrooms). Classrooms with higher income students spent twice as much time on grade-appropriate work than those with lower-income students. In classrooms with majority students of color, 66% of teachers who were the same race as the majority of students had high expectations. Of teachers who were a different race from their students, 35% had high expectations. Students of color who got good grades were less likely to do well on state and AP tests than white students who got the same grades, indicating teachers in classrooms with mostly students of color had lower standards.
These findings have major implications for the students we serve. People of color are over-represented in the homeless population. According to LAHSA, 36% of people experiencing homelessness in LA County are Black or African-American, and 35% are Latino. Only 25% are white. Homeless children are also likely to attend schools in low-income areas. In addition, students experiencing homelessness are often behind their grade level – moving schools can cause a student to lose 3-6 months of learning. Our students are among those who are the most in need of the impactful factors identified by the study.
Youth experiencing homelessness need caring people to invest and believe in them. If our students are not challenged and engaged with meaningful work, they cannot achieve their full potential, and may struggle to succeed later in life. In order to break the cycle of homelessness, our students need supportive learning environments where they are encouraged and expected to do their best.
Extreme negative emotions, like fear, can have a devastating effect on a student’s ability to learn. Fear amps up threat perception and aggression. It can also subsequently make it hard for children to understand causal relationships, or to change their mind as context changes. – David Brooks
A recent article in the New York Times highlights the growing body of neuroscience knowledge that reaffirms what we have known at School on Wheels for a long time—”children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another, and offering active care for the whole person.”
Homeless students are more susceptible to being exposed to negative and harmful imagery than their counterparts. That imagery can have a devastating impact on a homeless student’s emotional state. Research shows that having at least one caring adult in a child’s life dramatically increases the likelihood that they will thrive and become productive citizens themselves. School on Wheels is committed to providing not only supportive academic assistance but also consistency in the form of a caring human being.
Every year we publish our safety policies to remind volunteers of how important it is to comply with these mandated policies. At School on Wheels, we do everything we can to protect our students – the most vulnerable children in our society. We also want to safeguard our volunteers from potential risks. Please review these mandatory policies again to help ensure the safety of our students, as well as our volunteers.
Tutoring must take place in a public area and has to be scheduled so that two or more tutors are present at the same time and place. For smaller locations, libraries or other public locations with only one tutor, the tutor must work with their student within sight and earshot of another adult (shelter staff/ residents, library staff or parents).
Tutors must refrain from initiating physical contact with students and must report immediately to their coordinator or School on Wheels staff if they feel uncomfortable in a situation.
Tutors are required to wear their School on Wheels badges to identify they are tutors and so that our students become comfortable with our name and logo. Please let your coordinator know if you need a new badge.
Field Trip Safety Policy
Tutors who wish to take students on field trips must consult and follow the SOW field trip policy. Tutors cannot provide transportation outside of this policy. If tutoring takes place outside a shelter, the parent/guardian is responsible for the student’s attendance and transportation. All parents/guardians must stay at the location for the duration of the off-site session.
Volunteers are required to log all tutoring hours via the School on Wheels database. Logging is a critical and a mandatory part of being a volunteer in our program. This policy is first and foremost for the safety and security of our students, but also to protect our tutors. With accurate logging, we can identify exactly who, where and when tutoring takes place.
The safety of our students is a sacred trust. We cannot compromise that. I know you agree. Thank you so much for being a wonderful volunteer and ensuring the safety of your student. If you have any questions, please contact your coordinator.
Our students at Good Shepherd Shelter were gifted with a LEGO Robotics Kit, which the shelter’s school has integrated into their science curriculum. This kit includes 280 pieces, a battery-powered Hub, and a small motor. Students are using tablets from our Digital Learning Center to access the app and design their Lego models. Students look forward to building a new creation each week. We hope to expand this type of programming to more locations in the coming year, so stay tuned.
In order to support and raise awareness of the work that our volunteer tutors do every day we are excited to announce our new volunteer ambassador program! Ambassadors are volunteers that are taking on additional responsibilities to help build community amongst existing tutors, recruit new tutors, and raise awareness of our work. Like you, these ambassadors support School on Wheels because they are concerned about the well-being of children experiencing homelessness and they believe in the power of education to change their lives.
We had our program launch event on March 9th and we want to extend a very big thank you to Bunny James for donating snack packs for our ambassadors as well as to Children’s Institute for allowing us to use their beautiful facilities!